With the queue outside physio Rob Price’s office extended by Jack Clarke and Kemar Roofe in recent weeks, it is a relief to finally see Stuart Dallas, Gaetano Berardi and Barry Douglas emerge with their lollipops. I say this in spite of the fact that Leeds have, in the interim, been ably served by their latest offering of youth talent. In particular; Jamie Shackleton and Jack Clarke, two players who have made a significant impression on the first team squad, but also Leif Davis, Aapo Halme, Will Huffer and Jordan Stevens, who have all bravely stepped up as reliable stand-ins.
Like promotion rivals Norwich City, Leeds United have (once again) made use of their academy to effectively supplement their first team; an area in which so many Premier League and EFL sides still fall short. Even those who have (Reading FC, Swansea City, Sheffield Wednesday, and others to a lesser extent), have not done so as successfully as Leeds and Norwich. I am of the opinion that it is a responsibility of clubs to produce young players, whether homegrown or imported, because otherwise what does the future hold for our game?
With Clarke and Roofe out, there could be opportunities for others to shine yet, especially after Tuesday’s poor defeat at Queens Park Rangers. Let’s take a look at a few who could step up in the weeks to come:
A right-back turned centre-midfielder turned right-winger, the versatile Gotts has made frequent appearances on the Leeds bench in recent games, without making his senior bow. Known for his work ethic, the teenager is a ‘go hard or go home’ type, who has also captained the U23s. It’s a case of when and not if he turns out for the senior side this season. How far could he go? Given this rate of improvement, he can go as high as he jolly well wants.
Former Crystal Palace youth player Hosannah is a flying full-back or wing-back who has come along just when we needed him. With the emergence of Aaron Wan-Bissaka at Palace, it is likely that Hosannah was forced out, because I don’t think they would have let him go willingly. In a time where Leeds play with forward-thinking full-backs, this young star is in the right place at the right time.
You probably noticed Bogusz arrive in January. Some kings have had less fanfare. A People’s Vote on Brexit would receive less attention than the arrival of a seventeen-year-old attacking midfielder from a team in Poland’s third tier. My first thoughts were: ‘Great. In he goes, into the U23s. When will I next hear his name again?’
It turned out that I heard it the other night. Bogusz laid on a sublime assist for a Ryan Edmondson goal in the U23s Premier League Cup clash with Newcastle, who, I’m told, are a bit useful. Apparently, coach Carlos Corberan has been impressed with him so far. To settle so quickly is one thing, but to already be seeing results? Watch this space, because I’ve read a lot of things recently about this guy stepping up before the end of the season.
We may have had a dry January in terms of transfers, but the youth team is as strong as it ever has been. Let’s hope that we see some of these guys step up and help us in the promotion race, rather than hope that they don’t have to. Everyone has to start somewhere.